If you’ll be flying during the holidays – or any time – check out these simple, common problems and the quick solve for each. We don’t want you wasting time or money on any of this.
Problem: When to leave for the airport
Fact: Some airlines advise getting to the airport 90 minutes before departure any time you fly, but I suspect most of us cut it a lot finer than that. Here’s another fact: During peak travel periods, security lines can slow to a crawl and if you’re not at the gate about 20 minutes before the airplane takes off, you may not be allowed to board.
Solution: At peak travel periods, consider leaving twice as early as usual. At Thanksgiving, leave three times as early. If you have to wait in the airport for a while, well – isn’t that why they invented electronic gadgets?
Problem: Slow security
Fact: Many people who don’t normally fly get on a plane during peak travel periods and some of these folks are totally unfamiliar with security procedures like no liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces (rules vary by country but most airport websites post them). This can slow lines and checkpoints to a crawl and if you didn’t leave for the airport early enough you could miss your flight.
Solution: First, find out what’s banned and Can I Bring This through Security? will help. Second, if you live in the U.S. sign up for PreCheck. This security program costs $85 (but it’s good for five years) and gives you a dedicated lane to a quicker, pre-9/11 security experience.
Problem: Extra luggage fees
Fact: Some airlines charge $100 for a single piece of overweight luggage and that’s in addition to the regular bag fee.
Solution: It only takes a minute to weigh your bag before you leave. Weight limits vary but most U.S. carriers will not charge the extra fee on bags 50 pounds or less. Better measure the bag too, since oversize charges kick in on bags over 62 inches (add the inches in the height, width and length). Tip: If you’re already at the airport and know you’re going to go over, toss some things in your travel partner’s bag; if you don’t have one, try donning a few extra clothes.
Problem: Lost ID, lost gadgets, lost bags
Fact: People lose stuff all the time; owners often don’t get small items back because they don’t know where to look.
Solution: If you’ve lost your ID, get to the airport a little early since the security agent will have to ask you some questions but chances are you will be able to fly. If you’ve lost a laptop or phone, don’t forget to check the airline, airport and security lost & found – they are all separate entities (and they do not share this information). Note: TSA lost & founds have amassed scores of phones and laptops that are not reclaimed and they sure don’t need yours. As far as missing bags are concerned, check with the baggage claim person (or any airline rep) as soon as possible the airline and do not leave the airport without making a report. If you can’t get satisfaction on any of these issues, you can always file a complaint and here is a list of complaint forms.